Please don’t close this window to do your Black Friday shopping – today I want to talk about the Conservative party. Not to add to the denunciations of former home secretary Suella Braverman, who’s come up with the nifty idea of expediting policy by ‘excluding all avenues of legal challenge’. That would be unoriginal. Even Jonathan Sumption (no liberal himself) is among the dissenters.
Arguably more pertinent to Gazette readers are the potential ramifications for justice and the rule of law if, as the polls predict, the Tories suffer meltdown at the next general election. To deploy a phrase beloved of political commentators, what will ensue is a ‘battle for the soul of the Conservatives’.
In the dark blue corner, the National Conservative tendency personified by Braverman herself. Opposite, in the lighter blue corner, an embattled cohort of ‘moderates’ whose diminished number appears to include lord chancellor Alex Chalk KC and the law officers. Who wins could be era-defining. If Sir Keir Starmer (who’s no Tony Blair) lasts just one term, Braverman could be at number 10 before the decade is out.
Such is democracy; but as a reckoning approaches, the battle lines are becoming clearer. The natives are getting increasingly restless about nativism.
Sounding off on Conservative Home this week was former lord chancellor David Gauke, who’s not even sure he will vote Conservative. ‘Defeat in court on the Rwanda policy is no reason to abandon the rule of law,’ he lamented. Gauke was also to be found opining in the letters pages of The Times, alongside another Conservative former lord chancellor in Robert Buckland KC, and former attorney general Dominic Grieve KC (one of the better lord chancellors we never had).
‘Threatening to scrap or override the Human Rights Act or leave the ECHR has been intermittent sabre-rattling mood music from the Conservative party for more than a decade,’ scoffed Grieve. ‘That nothing then happens is because it is a fantasy.’
Grieve’s words might reassure liberal types, who are to still to be found within the Conservative party as well as without. Except that many things in British politics which would have been considered ‘fantastic’ even a decade ago have since come to pass.